- President Donald Trump’s final list of pardons was released on Tuesday night and included more than 140 people.
- Many on the list were low-level non-violent drug offenders, but Trump also offered pardons and clemency to some surprising figures.
- Among the list are a one-time Trump administration nominee, a snake smuggler, and a former Google exec convicted of stealing company secrets.
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President Donald Trump’s final list of pardons was released on Tuesday with more than a hundred people on it, none of whom happened to be Joe Exotic.
Exotic and his lawyer Eric Love were hoping for a pardon – Love was reportedly waiting outside Exotic’s prison with a limo on standby (after several hours, he drove away). Exotic was sentenced to 22 years on more than a dozen charges of animal abuse and two counts of attempted murder.
But, surprisingly, the exotic animal world was represented on the president’s last-ditch list. Robert Bowker pleaded guilty to trafficking in wildlife 30 years ago, after he was caught transporting 22 snakes to the Miami Serpentarium, an act for which he was offered 22 American alligators. Bowker was sentenced to probation and has spent much of the last few decades working in conservation. Trump granted him a full pardon.
Trump also looked to pardon fellow politicians, including former Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi, who was convicted in 2013 of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering, and racketeering in connection with the development of a mine outside of Phoenix.
Renzi was released from prison in 2017. In a statement Wednesday he said: “After almost 14 years of fighting for my innocence, it took a real man of action and courage in President Trump to finally relieve me of the horrific deceit of being wrongly convicted by a Department of Justice that engaged in witness tampering, illegal wiretapping, and gross prosecutorial misconduct.”
Ken Kurson, who was at one time nominated to be on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities, was also granted a preemptive pardon in an ongoing cyberstalking case.
As the FBI began vetting the former New York Observer editor for the NEH role, it was revealed that he’d been accused of harassing and stalking two doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital, one of whom he allegedly blamed for the dissolution of his marriage in 2015.
A criminal complaint was filed that alleged Kurson had created false online personas to harass the women, and that Kurson had at one time contacted the women’s employer to falsely accuse them of “improper contact with a minor,” according to CNBC.
Kurson is known to be a close friend of Jared Kushner and is connected to him through his work at the Observer, the newspaper Kushner once owned.
According to The New York Times, Kurson also helped write a campaign speech for Trump in 2016, and in was a co-author on Rudy Giuliani’s 2002 book “Leadership.” Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, was pardoned by the president in December.
Former Google exec Anthony Levandowski’s pardon was supported by several entrepreneurial heavyweights, including venture capitalist Peter Thiel and CAA founder Michael Ovitz, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey.
Levandowski founded Google’s self-driving car initiative, but then became embroiled in a civil lawsuit after he was accused of sharing trade secrets with Uber. In March 2020 he pleaded guilty to one charge of secret theft and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
More than a dozen pardons went to people who had been convicted of non-violent drug offenses. In some cases, those convictions go back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. Many of the names given to Trump were vetted by #Cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice reform group.
Alice Johnson, who was granted clemency by Trump in 2018 after being convicted of drug trafficking in 1996, was part of #Cut50’s efforts. (Johnson was granted a full pardon by Trump in 2020 after she spoke at the Republican National Convention on his behalf.)
One particularly striking commutation that Johnson fought for was that of Ferrell Damon Scott, who was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana in 2007 and, under the Three Strikes Law policy, was given a life sentence. The commutation was supported by Acting United States Attorney Sam Sheldon, who said that he “strongly does not believe that [Mr. Scott] deserves a mandatory life sentence.”